Charlie Harper: Look ahead with restraint

November 26, 2013 

We're finally officially in the holiday season. Hanukah begins the same day as Thanksgiving this year, a rarity that I'm told won't occur for another 79,043 years. We then of course have a sprint to Christmas with one of the shortest shopping seasons possible. And then, a new year.

The political crowd has been working 2014 for quite some time. Senator Saxby Chambliss' surprise announcement last January made the public part of the 2014 campaign start early enough that it is sometimes hard to believe that there are still 11 months of this campaign left -- 13 more months if there is a runoff.

Early campaigns have virtually become permanent campaigns. As such, we're treated to a constant barrage of "analysis" on our news stations that is little more than setting up the next campaign. Our politicians, meanwhile, are more than happy to feed the news monster. Talking about the next campaign, after all, takes away a good bit of attention of how little governing is actually going on.

If your family is like mine (work with me here, as I can assure you no family is like mine), when you gather for the holidays you will likely sprinkle some political conversation into the family dinner. And if you're following much of the national political discussion, there can be talk of Iran or Healthcare.gov. But there will more than likely also be discussion about what this means for 2016's presidential race.

Please. Don't. Do. This.

2016 is a race for who is sworn in as President in 2017. Our calendar still says 2013. As such, there is a lot of governing that must happen well before we decide just to give up and hope for better next time. We did that from 2010 to 2012 -- and not much changed.

Instead, you may want to sprinkle some conversation in about the farm bill. Farmers have been working without a permanent bill for a while. Whether you support the current version of the bill or not, there are a couple of things to consider.

Farmers are business people, but have annual planting cycles. As such, continual short term delays make it nearly impossible for them to plan for their future. The word "uncertainty" may have become trite in political circles, but it can't be overemphasized here.

Also, farming remains Georgia's largest industry. It's not good for our state's economy to be hindered by farmers' lack of ability to plan while waiting for the government to possibly change all the rules that affect the economics of the industry.

There's also the matter of the budget, which has been a series of short-term continuing resolutions for far too long. At least the members of Congress figured out not to set a December 31 deadline this time, as congressional spouses have been giving an earful to their significant others about missing large parts of Christmas and New Years for the past few years.

Yet, by mid-January, there will be another spending and revenue plans. Whether sequester cuts are held and/or new revenues are added will affect most of us well before anyone takes an oath of office in 2017.

For those who must talk about campaigns instead of governing, may I also suggest that you talk about 2014 in the context of the U.S. Senate elections. Harry Reid's decision to end the tradition of filibuster for most presidential nominees makes the control of the Senate more important than ever.

For those still thinking 2016 represents an "all or nothing" game for the White House, please consider what having a Republican in the White House but a Democratic Majority Leader would mean for any GOP President's future agenda. Reid has refused to call votes for anything that displeases him, and refused to move a budget for four years. It is folly to expect him to do any differently should a Republican move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The fact is, with many Democrats holding seats in states where the GOP usually wins Presidential contests, this off-year election provides Republicans with the best chance for a U.S. Senate pickup that it has had in a long time, or will have for a long time. 2016 almost doesn't matter if Republicans can't do what needs to be done this coming year to win the Senate.

As such, it's fine to dabble in parlor game discussion about who might run and who might win in 2016. Remember that the conventional wisdom eight years ago had a Hillary vs. Rudy race for 2008, if that helps put punditry in perspective.

But if your political discussions are of a serious nature, steer the conversation to the governing that remains to be done in 2013, and the table that must be set during 2014. That is the conversation and understanding that we need at this time.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.

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